Archaeopteryx is commonly cited as an example of a transitional fossil (i.e. a form showing characters common to two separate groups). This is disputed by anti-evolutionists, who claim that Archaeopteryx is a complete bird and thus cannot be transitional. This FAQ briefly describes the fossils and then discusses the large number of features shared between Archaeopteryx and dinosaurs. It has been claimed that Archaeopteryx could fly just like modern birds. The mechanics of flight are briefly described and it is shown that Archaeopteryx lacked features essential to be able to fly like modern birds. Archaeopteryx's ancestry is discussed, along with the contentious position of Protoavis.
Most anti-evolution arguments about Archaeopteryx revolve around how it is a complete bird and thus not transitional. However, a group of people led by Prof. Fred Hoyle and Dr. N. Wickramasinghe have adopted a different tack by suggested that Archaeopteryx is a forgery. They claim that the feather impressions were forged onto a small reptile skeleton and implicate the then director of the Natural History Museum in London, Sir Richard Owen. Not unnaturally, these claims have been contested by the Natural History Museum. This FAQ details the claims made by both sides and shows that the suggestion of forgery is unsupported by the evidence.
The most detailed anti-evolution claims that have been made about Archaeopteryx occur in "Evolution: the Challenge of the Fossil Record" by Dr. D.T. Gish. This book, first published in 1985, is probably one of the best known sources of anti-evolution arguments. It has now been superseded by a new book, "Evolution: The Fossils Still Say NO", published in 1995. However, given the well known half-life of anti-evolutionary material years after it has been superseded, it is useful to look at the claims made in the 1985 book to see whether or not they hold up to scrutiny. They don't.
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